The Joint Research Centre (JRC) has released the software of its SUMO maritime surveillance tool, which is helping to protect our oceans by detecting ships engaged in illicit activities (i.e. illegal oil dumping, piracy and unsustainable fishing).
SUMO (Search for Unidentified Marine Objects) automatically scans large numbers of satellite images for the presence of ships (see website). The results can be cross-checked with other maritime data to identify suspicious vessels.
Making the software open source allows other developers to add additional functionalities to it and improve it further for the benefit of everyone.
SUMO takes advantage of the growing use of radar satellites, which are the most suitable for detecting ships because they can ‘see’ them even in cloudy conditions or at night.
Large numbers of images of the oceans are now generated by Earth-orbiting radar satellites, but scanning them for ships is a complex process and would not be manageable without the help of software such as SUMO.
The availability of satellite images has hugely increased by the open data policy of the European Union’s Copernicus Earth observation satellite programme, which includes the radar imaging satellite Sentinel-1.
The data collected by Sentinel-1 and the rest of the Copernicus programme is available for free to all users.